When Your Boss Green Lights Ketamine-Assisted Therapy
When Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap went into partnership with Enthea so that its staff would have access to Ketamine-Assisted Therapy (KAT) last year, some thought the company had gone a tad too far. Employees, however, thought otherwise. Especially those employees who were suffering from treatment-resistant depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Eighteen months in and it appears Dr. Bronner’s had not only made the right move, but they’d also made the bright move.
Indeed, a recent Enthea release states that of the 7% of overall health plan members who completed their physician-recommended KAT treatment regimen during the first year, those suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder saw an 86% improvement. Furthermore those suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder saw respectably respective improvements of 67% and 65%.
Of course, Ketamine-Assisted Therapy means just that – ketamine assisted. In other words, it goes well beyond simply administering a dose or three of Special K. In fact, the full KAT regimen “includes medical and psychiatric intake, preparatory sessions, medicine administration, and therapy sessions to integrate the experiences into their daily lives.”
One surmises it also includes approaching the therapy with the kind of cosmic groundedness that permits the ketamine to truly take hold.
And to prove that it’s truly special.
What’s So Special About Ketamine Anyway?
“Ketamine was introduced into clinical practice in the 1960s and continues to be both clinically useful and scientifically fascinating.”
That’s the lead sentence in “Ketamine: 50 Years of Modulating the Mind” a report from Drs. Linda Li and Phillip E. Vlisides which the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) posted within the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) revered National Library of Medicine (NLM). Now, while “inclusion in an NLM database does not imply endorsement of, or agreement with, the contents by NLM, [let alone] the NIH,” the fact that it even appears on such an august site says a lot about how far ketamine has come in the medical world. That these two impeccably-credentialed doctors saw fit to produce the study says even more.
History of Ketamine
We won’t pretend to comprehend the minutiae of their study. We will note, as they do, that ketamine’s history begins back in 1956 when Parke Davis chemists first synthesized phencyclidine and found it “to be a safe and reliable anesthetic in humans.” Those chemists also found the drug caused people to fall into “an intense, prolonged emergence delirium.” That trait, however, made it undesirable for human use.
Six years later a Parke Davis consultant and organic chemist named Calvin Stevens developed a structural analog at one-tenth the potency of phencyclidine. That drug was ketamine.
Two years after that University of Michigan professors and Dr. Guenter Corssen (Anesthesiology) and Dr. Edward Domino (Pharmacology) initiated a pharmacological study of ketamine in 20 humans. There they found evidence that the drug could be safe and effective for clinical anesthetic use. The two doctors then tested 130 patients, aged 6 weeks to 86 years, through a total of 133 surgical procedures. This time they found that ketamine could not only rapidly produce profound analgesia, but that it also produced a unique state of altered consciousness.
While ketamine’s altered state lacked the severity of phencyclidine’s emergence delirium, it did nevertheless leave apparently awake patients unable to respond to sensory input. Domino’s wife called this state “dissociative anesthesia”. We now know it as a “k-hole”.
Those k-holes must not have been too very deep though, because in 1970 the FDA approved a ketamine-infused drug named Ketalar for human use.
Effects of Ketamine
Ketamine does more than dig you into a k-hole though. And it isn’t simply something that medical practitioners and veterinarians use as an anesthetic either. As Australia’s Alcohol and Drug Foundation notes, ketamine can produce all kinds of effects.
Those effects of course are dependent upon various factors, including:
- size, weight and health of the individual
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug (which varies from batch to batch)
Consequent effects can be:
- feeling happy and relaxed
- feeling detached from your body (‘falling into a k-hole’)
- visual and auditory hallucinations
- confusion and clumsiness
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- slurred speech and blurred vision
- anxiety, panic and violence
- lowered sensitivity to pain
While the ADF notes that the risk of death from ketamine alone is low, falling into a k-hole does put individuals at a higher risk of physical harm and/or accidents. In fact, as Healing Properties wrote in our own ketamine investigation, we’ve seen such incidents firsthand. They weren’t at all pretty either.
Here are some of ketamine’s detrimental effects noted by the ADF:
- inability to move, rigid muscles
- high blood pressure, fast heartbeat
- unconsciousness and ‘near death’ experiences
After-effects may include:
- memory loss
- impaired judgment, disorientation
- aches and pains
Long-term effects (from regular use) may eventually cause:
- poor sense of smell (from snorting)
- mood and personality changes, depression
- poor memory, thinking and concentration
- abnormal liver or kidney function
- abdominal pain
- needing to use more to get the same effect
- dependence on ketamine
- financial, work and social problems
There’s also a condition called ketamine bladder syndrome, which can occur after large, repeated doses. It’s a painful affliction that requires ongoing treatment and includes symptoms such as difficulty holding in urine and incontinence.
We probably need not mention that anyone suffering from ketamine bladder syndrome or any of the other above-mentioned adversities should immediately consult a medical professional. In fact, a medical professional can help you avoid all of those worst-case scenarios.
The Promise of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy
There’s good reason why Drs. Li and Vlisides say “ketamine has become arguably the most unique anesthetic agent used today, [as well as] one of the most promising and exciting in terms of its potential.” Dr. Bronner’s saw that. So did Enthea. And now a good chunk of Dr. Bronner’s staff have got to see it too.
“Partnering with Enthea to offer ketamine-assisted therapy to our workforce is something that I’m especially proud of,” said David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s. “While not everyone experiences such deep healing, many of our team members have reported dramatic improvements in their lives as a result.”
David Bronner has every right to be proud, not only for green-lighting ketamine-assisted therapy, but for so actively helping to pave the way to get through the intersection in the first place.
Dr. Bronner’s is “one of the country’s biggest financial supporters of efforts to win mainstream acceptance of psychedelics,” writes New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs, “[as well as] loosening government restrictions on all illegal drugs.” In fact, of the over $23 million the company has donated since 2015, it’s supported everything from “scientists researching the healing properties of the club drug Ecstasy, activist groups that helped decriminalize psilocybin, and a small nonprofit working to preserve habitat for peyote.”
The company’s green-lighting of ketamine-assisted therapy however could very well prove to be the move that truly inspired more buttoned-up businesses to join in on the fun — and the benefits.
And why not? In addition to “improving employee well-being, offerings like KAT can also support improved productivity, increase employee retention rates, lower medical costs, and a more engaged workforce overall.”
A Unique Place in the Cosmos and Beyond
Granted Dr. Bronner’s inimitable history has already earned it a unique place in the cosmos, yet its place on the bright side of corporate culture is fast becoming equally secure. Heck, last year Enthea’s co-founder Lia Mix told Jacobs that “10 other companies were already following in Dr. Bronner’s footsteps.”
Enthea also said that the results from its ketamine partnership with Dr. Bronner’s have motivated it to expand its treatment plan to cover telemedicine and at-home ketamine care in partnership with the wellness provider Nue Life.
The timing couldn’t be better. As Jacobs notes, the University of Texas, Johns Hopkins and Yale have created divisions to explore whether psychedelic compounds can advance the treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction and a range of other mental health disorders. And the University of California, Berkeley, is currently setting up its own Center for the Science of Psychedelics.
“We really are at an inflection point where the whole paradigm about these drugs is shifting,” said UC Berkeley professor of psychology Dacher Keltner.
One can’t help but think that the paradigm-shattering folks at Dr. Bronner’s are very much helping to effect that shift.